3Secondly, the Government proposes to extend
marriage to homosexual couples.Civil marriages lie outside the authority of the Churches (and faiths); religious objections tothe proposed change are therefore at best irrelevant or inappropriate.Third, marriage has an intrinsic cultural and social meaning
which is not specific to religious understandings of marriage, although religion gives it extrameaning. Whether entered by the religious or the civil route, marriage is marriage; its intrinsicconjugal meaning will need to be rejected in order to allow same-sex marriage.Understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, and for thecreation and upbringing of children, marriage is an expression of our fundamentalhumanity. Its status in law is the prudent fruit of experience, for the good of thespouses and the good of the family. In this way society esteems the married couple asthe source and guardians of the next generation. As an institution marriage is at thefoundation of our society.
As our ComRes poll shows, the belief that marriage is, and should remain, a life-longunion between a man and a woman is shared by 70 per cent of the British people, andtherefore cannot be attributed to religious conviction. The same survey shows that marriageitself is cherished: 68 per cent of British people believe it is important to society and should bepromoted by the state. So, too, is the idea of marriage as a conjugal institution: anoverwhelming 84 per cent of British people believe that a child raised by its mother and fatherhas the best chance in life.Most British people believe these propositions while at the same time believing in legalrights for same-sex couples: our poll shows 59 per cent support for the state recognising stablerelationships between same-sex couples through the civil partnership scheme. Most Britishpeople, in other words, regard it as reasonable, consistent and coherent to favour grantinglegal rights and privileges to gay people while being resolutely opposed
as are many gay people
to the idea of ‘gay marriage’.
This does not mean religious voices should be silent in this debate: indeed, the mostorganised and coherent opposition to gay marriage has so far come from the Churches andchurch leaders who recognise marriage as a natural institution which brings great benefits tosociety as a whole.That is why it is not enough to respond to that opposition
as the Government has sofar done
by reassuring church leaders that there will be no attempt to impose gay marriageon religious groups. The point at issue is the redefinition of civil marriage, for same-sexmarriage can only be created by overthrowing the conjugal understanding of marriage insociety as a whole.It is also inadequate to assert, as does the gay rights lobby Stonewall, that "if RomanCatholics don't approve of same-sex marriage, they should make sure they don't get married
‘A Letter on Marriage from the President and Vice
President of the Bishops’ Conference of Englandand Wales’, 11 March 2012 (first published in the
, 7 March 2012)